Google’s social app failures explained

Google’s social app failures explained


If there is one company that should have absolutely won
social media and especially messaging, it is Google. Think about it, they have all of the necessary
ingredients for success. Most people have a Google account already,
many of them sync their contacts with Google from Android and Gmail, so Google knows their
social network, and the company can push new services as default apps on Android, tie
them in with Gmail and YouTube on the web, the Google Suite for business and so on. They are even one of the only companies that knows how to build internet services at really large scale as well as how to build a really great advertising platform, the lifeblood of almost all social app business. And yet, they have consistently failed in
this category. They have no social media to speak of,
and their messaging apps get rebooted every year or two. So in the 49th episode of The Story Behind
series, let’s talk about how and why Google has failed so spectacularly at social apps. Thanks to Skillshare for sponsoring this video
and for giving the first 500 people who sign up with the link in the description 2 months
of premium access for free. Quick timeline first. Here are all of Google’s attempts at building
messaging and calling apps, and here are their attempts at building social media networks. And as the internet historians among you might
point out none of these ever became truly popular, except for maybe Google+ as a meme
for how not to build a social media app. But still, this timeline shows us two things very clearly. First, it is apparent that Google’s failure is not for the lack of trying. They have tried and failed again and again at both. And second, in hindsight, it becomes very obvious just how late Google was to every major social trend. Like, Social Media for example. After years of fumbling around with side projects
like Orkut and Google Buzz, they finally joined the fight in earnest in 2011 with their Facebook
competitor, Google Plus. Problem is, Facebook was 7 years old at that
point, and even Twitter was 5. Google Plus launched the same year as Snapchat,
which ushered in a whole new generation of social media. One focused entirely on smartphone users,
AR stickers, and spontaneous, self-destructing video content, while Google Plus was still trying to emulate Facebook from a generation ago. Google was also late to take messaging seriously. It’s first “real” smartphone-focused chat
product was Hangouts after they finally unbundled it from Google Plus in 2013. But you know who had beaten them to this market
by then? That’s right, everyone. Whatsapp, Viber, iMessage, WeChat, everyone
launched dedicated, high quality mobile-first services years before Google, and even Facebook
realized they had to make Messenger a standalone app in 2011. Google was then also late to the insanely
popular stickers, to advanced stuff like money transfers that is really popular in Asia with WeChat and Line and stuff, and also to the latest big messaging trend, which is encrypted messaging. They were even spectacularly late to business
communications. Slack started kicking everybody’s butts in
2013, and even Microsoft was faster to react to the threat than Google when it launched
Microsoft Teams in 2016. Think about that. When Microsoft with its enterprise solutions
is faster at product development than you, you know you are too slow. This all points to the fact that Google leadership
doesn’t really have a strong vision for social apps. It seems like their whole corporate culture, and the DNA of the company is fine tuned to build utilities and tools. Google Search, Gmail, Maps, Docs, Drive, Chrome,
ChromeOS, Google Assistant, all of their successful in-house solutions are tools and utilities. They help you get stuff done, not socialize
and build communities. Google’s only halfway successful social platform
is YouTube, which they acquired, not built inhouse, and even so, to me it seems like YouTube has succeeded
despite its social features rather than because of them. They are weak and constantly seem to be lagging
behind competitors like Twitch. And without any real visionary leaders in this domain
that can predict or invent the next social trends, the company is always running after the last social trend that somebody else introduced to the market and by the time they catch up with that, the market has moved on to the next thing, they are too late again, they haven’t killed a userbase so they kill the service and they start from zero. Which starts this whole cycle again and again. And this concept of just killing an app that didn’t work and starting again, I think is a very popular Silicon Valley-style startup strategy, and I think it can work for Google’s sort of “bread and butter” products, like tools and utilities, because there you just kill it, didn’t work, you try again, you do it until you find the right usable product. But it is extremely risky with social apps,
because the value of a social app is its network of users. And with each reboot, Google loses their network
and has to start from scratch again, with users who know that the likelihood of Google just
killing that service again in a year or two is historically speaking around 100%. So with each reboot, building up this network
becomes harder and harder, and one failure snowballs into another. But OK, let’s leave Google’s past behind, and let’s focus on what they have on the market right now. At present, they seem to have abandoned social
media altogether as they recently shut down Google Plus without a replacement, and they are simplifying their messaging portfolio
to 4 apps. One chat and one video calling app for consumers
and a similar pair of apps for business users as well. And you know what, while there is no telling
how long these will be alive, at least that’s a clear portfolio and 3 of the 4 apps actually
have a unique value proposition that I think I could get behind. Their consumer chat solution, called RCS is
not yet another messaging service, but rather a communication protocol built to eventually
replace SMS. Instead of messages traveling through a Google
server and being tied to a Google account, they actually go through mobile carriers,
just like SMS messages do. If one of the parties has a carrier or a phone
that doesn’t support the protocol, then the system will fall back to just sending a regular
SMS, but if all is in order, messages behave just like internet chat. They don’t have character limits, they can
contain stickers and pictures, they don’t cost extra, like SMS messages do, and so on. Google has gotten a ton of carriers and phone
makers to get on board with the system, apparently even Apple is rumored to consider rolling
out RCS to iPhones, and SMS is certainly due for a refresh, but I can’t help but feel like
this is once again coming years too late. I mean, there are certainly some parts of the world like the US, that still rely heavily on SMS and text messaging, but the majority of the world, basically everyone I know here in Europe or Asia where I lived for a few years, nobody under the age of 50 still uses SMS for basically anything. I mean this graph shows the number of SMS
messages sent in Germany for example, which doesn’t look great for RCS, and people around the world are pretty tied-in to their chat ecosystems. Encrypted chat apps for example offer more security and services like WeChat offer superior functionality to RCS. Plus with so many players involved, I find
it really hard to imagine that RCS would manage to keep up with the pace of innovation that other social apps are seeing and stay relevant for long. But OK, RCS is still a more interesting solution than just yet another Google chat app that nobody would use. Now, where I think Google does have a real chance at a come-back is with business communication tools. After all, these tools, these chat and video calling apps for businesses are as close and utilities as social apps can be, so I trust that Google can execute on these. And while their apps came way too late, they
have one huge benefit. They come for free with G-suite, Google’s
competitor to Microsoft Office, which is very popular among small and medium sized companies. These companies typically pay for G-Suite
and a dedicated chat app, usually Slack, but if Google can deliver a viable competitor
to Slack for free with G-Suite, then I bet many G-Suite companies will be happy to switch
over. It’s one less bill to pay and one less service
for IT departments to manage, which is a very attractive proposition. Microsoft was able to play the same trick
with its own Slack competitor, Microsoft Teams, which has apparently seen fantastic adoption
among companies using Microsoft Office. The only question that remains to be seen is whether Google will really put in the required amount of work and effort into developing and promoting these tools. Hangouts Chat has pretty terrible ratings
on Google’s own Play store which is in stark contrast to the overwhelmingly positive ratings
both Microsoft Teams and Slack have on the platform, and the only real report I could find on adoption
rates claims that Hangouts is actually losing market share in IT companies, to both Teams
and Slack. I don’t think this survey can be seen as 100%
representative of the world at large, but it suggests that Google has a bunch of marketing
and sales to do if it wants Hangouts to be adopted by organizations worldwide. But if they really get behind these ideas, they could end up with a real workplace communication tools, and a replacement for SMS. Not bad! Now this part of the video is where I usually come up with some sort of clever narrative twist to somehow lead you unknowingly into the sponsored spot or something like that, and I thought I had it really figured out. I was going to build a chat bot. You know, it’s relevant to the video, I found a really nice course on Skillshare for it, it’s pretty easy to do, and everything was going well, until I figured I was spending like 4 hours just trying to get through privacy policies and GDPR certification, company registration, developer… I just gave up. So instead, let me recommend this Skillshare
class to you, which is unrelated, but the best damn class I’ve seen on Skillshare yet. It’s a hilariously entertaining design masterclass
from Aaron Draplin himself that I can recommend to everyone from design pros to people who
just want to know what goes into really good design. The first 500 people to sign up with the link
in the description get 2 months of premium access for free and can watch any one of Skillshare’s
over 25 000 courses on everything from design to software development, video editing, marketing
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in the description get 2 months of premium access for free and can watch any one of Skillshare’s
over 25 000 courses on everything from design to software development, video editing, marketing and much more. So use the link below to sign up and I’ll see you in the next one!

100 COMMENTS

    I have heard the feedback that you want me to change the music. We are currently working on new stuff, but it's taking longer than expected. Please be patient until then 🙂

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    Because they wanted to fail. Look, the main business of Google still is web searching and ads, they didn't want any social product to become so relevant to eclipse the main business of the company.

    Im actually glad Google is not domminating or has a sizeable market share of social media apps and such. Google has proven they are capable of great evil. So no…. I hope the never have any successful social media apps/services.

    I like most Google products, but if there is one thing that Google is notoriously bad at, it's a good end-user interface. While the super simplistic Google Search definitely contributed to their success, Google tried to implement the same design philosophy to keep it simplistic, into other interfaces across most of their products. So many Google products look unfinished from a UX/UI perspective. Most of their documentations, wikis and help pages were a complete mess for over a decade. It was so confusing to read those articles. Google forums are to this very day a complete eye sore. It took Gmail almost a decade to make a few design changes to make it more user friendly. Google Maps is still confusing at times, especially with directions, pin dropping and sharing. Google+ was the worst UX/UI disaster from the very start. The user interface always looked unfinished, as if it was a temporary placeholder design until the real interface would be released. Only on recent years did Google manage to change their UX/UI to make it more user friendly. As a developer, I need to read a lot of documentations, and finally they're more organized and are easier to read.

    I think around 98% of people in Asia dont use SMS anymore. Why is US still stuck with paid SMS while u can use free apps instead?

    I think Youtube will soon decline its popularity because of Facebook's video AdBreaks. Many content creators will migrate to Facebook because (1) its easier to get AdBreaks approval, (2) Facebook pays more, (3) Facebook has more users and better reach and (4) If you get two policy strike with Youtube you are done, while Facebook only suspends your monetisation for 90 days.

    I'm sorry, but as an avid Google+ user, it was everything I needed social media to be. I feel people really didn't get how it worked. I hate that it was shutdown.

    I started using google messages on mobile in 2010. It could text other phones or other people's apps. Got rebranded as hangouts, but it has existed for a lot longer than 2013.

    What Google succeeds at is what the intelligence community wants them to do. Their competition with FB was a sham, the intelligence community decides who succeeds at what.

    companies ought to be happy grateful at what they get successful and leave rest to others where they are successful , i really do not know why on you tube so much hate twisted rubbish uploads about people are there especially on my feed, i may not know them personally but i also do not have any reason to believe they are bad… so it irritates, the ones who were bad to me with face and harassment i already have stated that but who was behind it ? that coward hasn't come forward to say who this eunuch is.google has some very fine services and if there is more competition so be it, there is enough human beings out there to use them apart from the ones who are established, its same with other products in market whichever suits who so ever will be used.

    The only reason as of now Google dominates in few areas, because there is no better replacement. Such as
    1. Youtube (unfortunately thee is no better replacement, which also offers revenue for content developers). We all know Youtube terribly sucks one or other way for both viewers + content producers.
    2. Adsense (well those who earn revenue out of it, let it be via website or Youtube ADs, will know already). Unfortunately there is no alternative.
    3. AdWords (its the most pathetic when it comes to online advertising for businesses). It is good since it is very affordable, kinda easy to setup. It just sucks, since it has tons of controls hardly any use for others. And the main drawback is that it is highly unpredictable when it comes to serving ADs. Only people who used it will know its just annoying. But there is no other choice.

    I use sms for everything, i mean i trust theme more than viber of wa, for by buisness it helps a lot, people can recieve the sms no matter what + the new balkan romaing teaming sms will costs the same in every country

    They should make a mega app, with all of their services from youtube, google crom, all of google drive, and even google play store

    Also there's the fact that most people see the Google social apps in their phones and assume it's useless preinstalled crapware instead of a legitimate service, so no one uses it even though everyone has it on their phones.

    Ooooh. Orkut was the shit in Brazil. In fact, we only started using Facebook because Orkut was shut down right as Facebook was spreading its wings around here. Maybe Orkut might not have been popular abroad, but nearly every Brazilian born between the 80's and 90's had an account. We used Orkut and MSN Messenger pretty heavily. Nowadays, we resort primarily to WhatsApp (top app, I'd say), Instagram (second most popular, considering everyone I meet anywhere online asks for your Instagram), then Facebook (it's slowed down considerably, but a lot of people still use it as if it was their primary social media), and finally, Snapchat (used to be more popular than Instagram at one point, but it didn't last that long). Twitter is probably the least popular social media around here, but it's definitely on top of dead ones such as Google +.

    We all miss Orkut and MSN Messenger dearly. Orkut had some pretty cool ideas, by the way. Facebook cannibalized some of those (groups, for one), and I think even Steam might've taken some hints with how profiles are laid out and how you can customize them.

    With G+ I don't think it's anything specific they did wrong (except being late). They had a cool feature which let you group people into categories and adjust your feed based on it (which FB copied right away). People were hating Facebook a lot back then and were tired of all the BS they introduced. But, people were also lazy to change the platform and those who did change now faced a question whether to post something on a platform where you have 100% of your network or 20% of your network or just double post each and every time. Facebook won not because it was better, but because it was there earlier and it was inconvenient to change platforms.

    It's rather ironic. If the platform is too similar to FB, the most people won't switch because "hey, it's basically the same". And if it's different, then people won't switch because they have to learn to navigate through it.

    2:16 "…whileGoogle+ was still trying to emulate Facebook from a generation ago!"

    Since when does 7 years count as "a generation"?

    Our school uses teams and it unifies the departments as each department used to use their own service (doddle, moodle, my maths, edmodo etc) and now everything's connected

    I think I'm one of the only few that still uses Hangouts actively. But hey I'm happy with it. As an Android user I'm use to apple 1st and everyone else later BS.

    What makes me hesitant to RCS is that it may cost extra to message people in other countries, especially if it just reverts to SMS without letting me choose.

    Tbh, G+ sucks horseshit and horsecock because of those bots goin Hindi mode with an app called Champcash, I've seen that a helluva times from the now forgotten Android community and even those inbred assholes who post links of fuckin dudes fuckin and fuckin and fuckin dogs or other animals, and there's actual users posting rule 34 images every sunday for a fuckin cartoon couple, but I also thank G+ for giving me a good friend of mine

    Google jenius just for coding, for human sosial they lack experience since they scientist only work in front of computer,..poorly

    Orkut was huge in India, but then Facebook took over! And now Instagram has become new Facebook and have completely taken over. In my opinion Instagram should have been bought by Google!

    I miss Google Talk. They had no real reason to replace it with Hangouts. I would use Google Talk if it relaunched.

    This video forgets that google HAS achieved social media success with their platform, YouTube. It’s one of the most popular social networks in the world. It makes them billions and there’s no point developing a social network aside from that.

    Personally, I don't see GSuite is not as good as Office 365 and don't see why people use it. Functionality in Excel and Word seem to be much better.

    I actually loved hangouts because it was the only app you could use on Android, iOS, MacOS, Windows, and Linux without any hitches. If you had google chrome, just download the hangouts app, it had its own phone number even! and they removed that…

    SMS should not be replaced !!! … it is only thing with 100% guarantee that recipient will receive message + it is simple and easy to use. No need to sign-in, search other person, etc. It is enough to just type phone number (or select it from phone book) and text … that's it … message will reach recipient …

    … with all other "chat" application recipient needs to be logged in, have internet connection enabled, have enough credit / data assigned to phone, have same chatting app and account, and so on … there are so many variables which delay delivery of message or prevent delivery at all … Imagine situation like if delivery company would like to send notification. Operator will just type text and phone number and that's it. Compared to situation that he will need to search thought dozens of chat applications to see if recipient is (actively) using it …

    Decline in SMS usage is obvious. It is not primary means of communication anymore but that's not reason to kill it. It is still serving purpose of that one thing which is reliable working. Just think about when chat application of your choice had last outage and when SMS was not working …

    btw. I don't have RCS enabled on my phone, because I don't see reason to have and … and also price in Slovakia is same as for regular SMS so quite questionable benefit of having it enabled 😀

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    And on top of everything "cherry on the cake" Google Pixel 4 sucks,
    So disappointed, I was waiting for this phone, hoped to get the true clean android without any bloatware like other models has, but it's simply not worth it, for the same Pixel 4 price you can get way better specs with some other phone brands.

    I'm so sick of Google killing stuff I use….
    I wish they'd just IMPROVE their products… But no, they just start over, or don't start over at all.

    Google's deadly mistake was to merge, without user knowledge or consent, different accounts, under different names and different media. Gmail and Youtube. Work accounts with gamer accounts, and trying to publishing all of it in one single social network, with one single name.
    It scared people who maintained different identities under different names,on different platforms.

    I totally lost trust on google, and I'm glad I did, because every day google is turning more and more into big Brother, sanctioning and censoring people for wrongthinking.

    I feel really really sad when someone speaks about chat apps and doesen't say anyting about Signal. Signal is the father of all current chat apps people… Please, show some respect.

    The biggest issue with Google+ is that it did literally nothing new or unique. Every other successful social media platform has its own niche, with unique methods of sending and receiving messages that make it useful for different types of interaction. Google+ basically just cloned Facebook and hoped to overtake them just by virtue of being a bigger and more powerful company, but by the time they did so everyone already had a Facebook account and there was no reason to start using Google+ when Facebook had been working just fine for years.

    Because they try hard. Nobody supports the platform that wants to be great too after seeing it succeed elsewhere. That is clearly a money grab.

    Google's social apps are the only ones I ever used even today the only social media I use is youtube, I gyess I'm just a part of a minority here then

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